How Clark Gregg Channeled Robert Altman, David Mamet For Trust Me
Thanks to his substantial role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Clark Gregg is known around the world as Agent Phil Coulson (or if you’re fully caught up with the first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Director Coulson). After years of great character actor work in both comedic and dramatic roles, Gregg got his big break with a small role in Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, and nothing has been the same since.
Much more than just his Marvel Studios character, however, Gregg is also quickly establishing himself behind the camera as well. It was just a couple months after the release of Iron Man in 2008 that he made his directorial debut with Choke, a hard-R rated, Sam Rockwell-starring adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name. Six years later, Gregg has now not only directed his second feature, Trust Me, but also has served as the projects lead character. And I recently had the chance to talk with him all about it.
Earlier this week I hopped on the phone with Clark Gregg to talk about his newest feature and found out some pretty fascinating things about both the project and him as a filmmaker. Read on to find out more!
Being The Director And The Lead Is Incredibly ComplicatedClark Gregg has been working in the industry for a long time now, first starting to get his acting career off the ground in the late-‘80s, but in the writing/directing field, he is comparatively green. After all, Choke was made a full six years ago, and Trust Me is only the filmmaker’s second effort. One major difference between the two projects is that Gregg actually plays the lead in his latest film, while he only played a supporting role in his debut. If you think this was the plan from the very beginning, however, you are mistaken.
In coming up with Howard Holloway, child agent and former child star, Gregg wasn’t trying to come up with a role he could play himself, but instead was just trying to come up with a great character. Sam Rockwell, who played the lead in Choke was briefly considered for the part, but Gregg ultimately decided that he was too young to get the full weight and desperation of the part. Finally it was his producing partner Mary Vernieu (who also happens to be a casting agent) who finally suggested that Gregg play the role himself.
"There are millions of people that probably could have killed it, but I just had a vision of this, and I decided to do it," Gregg told me. "I spent the three months leading up to shooting it, waking up in the middle of the night thinking of different actors or directors that I could give one of the jobs to."
Taking on jobs as big as "director," "writer" and "lead actor" definitely took its toll on the filmmaker, and he admitted to me that there were some drawbacks, including not being able to watch everyone else’s performance. He had to put all of his trust in the people he hired to get the production done in just 20 days, and not only did it work, it also provided an extra benefit. "I realized that there was an upside, which was that I felt just as in over my head and lost and frightened as Howard did," Gregg said. "And it really kind of lent a vulnerability, I feel."
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